Monday, November 24, 2014

Lactantius on War and Nonresistance in 304-313CE

It is not befitting that those who strive to keep to the path of justice should be companions and sharers in this public homicide. For when God forbids us to kill, He prohibits more than the open violence that is not even allowed by the public laws. … Nor is it lawful for him to accuse anyone of a capital charge. For it makes no difference whether you put a man to death by word, or by the sword instead. That is because it is the act of putting to death itself that is prohibited. Therefore, with regard to this commandment of God, there should be no exception at all. Rather, it is always unlawful to put a man to death, whom God willed to be a sacred creature. …

Religion is to be defended – not by putting to death – but by dying. Not by cruelty, but by patient endurance. Not by guilt, but by good faith. For the former belongs to evil, but the latter to the good. … For if you wish to defend religion by bloodshed, tortures, and guilt, it will no longer be defended. Rather, it will be polluted and profaned. … And therefore, when we suffer such impious things, we do not resist even in word. Rather we leave vengeance to God. We do not act as those persons who would have it appear that they are defenders of their gods, who rage without restraint against those who do not worship them. …

In what respect, then does the wise and good man differ from the evil and foolish one? Is it not that he has unconquerable patience, of which the foolish are destitute? Is it not that he knows how to govern himself and to mitigate his anger – which those are unable to curb because they are without virtue? … What if a man gives way to grief and anger and indulges these emotions (which he should struggle against)? What if he rushes wherever injustice will call him? Such a man does not fulfill the duty of virtue. For he who tries to return an injury desires to imitate that very person by whom he has been injured. In short, he who imitates a bad man cannot be good.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Polycarp on Grace, Faith, Works and Salvation in 135CE

It does my heart good to see how the solid roots of your faith, which have had such a reputation ever since early times, are still flourishing and bearing fruit for Jesus Christ. In Him, endurance went so far as to face even death for our sins; but God overruled the pangs of the grave, and raised Him up to life again. Though you never saw Him for yourselves, yet you believe in Him in a glory of joy beyond all words (which not a few others would be glad to share), well knowing that it is by His grace you are saved, not of your own doing but by the will of God through Jesus Christ.

So gird up your loins now and serve God in fear and sincerity. No more of the vapid discourses and sophistries of the vulgar; put your trust in Him who raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and gave Him glory and a seat at His own right hand. All things in heaven and earth have been made subject to Him; everything that breathes pays Him homage; He comes to judge the living and the dead, and God will require His blood at the hands of any who refuse Him allegiance. And He that raised Him from the dead will raise us also, if we do His will and live by His commandments, and cherish the things He cherished. …

We know that God is not mocked, and therefore we owe it to ourselves to behave in a manner worthy of His precepts and His glory. … To please Him in this present world is to earn the world to come, for we have His promise that He will raise us from the grave; and if we prove ourselves good citizens of His here, we shall reign with Him hereafter, if we have faith. … The happy man is he who keeps this in mind, and I am sure that is true of you. May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal High Priest Jesus Christ Himself, the Son of God, help you grow in faith and truth, in unfailing gentleness and the avoidance of all anger, in patience and forbearance, and in calmness and purity. To you, and to ourselves as well, and to all those under heaven who shall one day come to believe in our Lord Jesus Christ and in His Father who raised Him from the dead, may He grant part and portion among His saints. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Cyprian on the Need for Christians to Confess Current Sins in 250CE

For we must perceive and confess that the so disordered ruin arising from that affliction, which has in a great measure laid waste, and is even still laying waste our flock, has visited us according to our sins, in that we do not keep the way of the Lord, nor observe the heavenly commandments given to us for our salvation. Our Lord did the will of His Father, and we do not do the will of our Lord; eager about our estate and our gain, seeking to satisfy our pride, yielding ourselves wholly to emulation and to strife, careless of simplicity and faith, renouncing the world in words only and not in deeds, every one of us pleasing himself and displeasing all others—therefore we are smitten as we deserve, since it is written: “And that servant, which knows his master’s will, and has not obeyed his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.” ...

But if for us and for our sins He both labored and watched and prayed, how much more ought we to be instant in prayers; and, first of all, to pray and to entreat the Lord Himself, and then through Him, to make satisfaction to God the Father! We have an advocate and an intercessor for our sins, Jesus Christ the Lord and our God, if only we repent of our sins past, and confess and acknowledge our sins whereby we now offend the Lord, and for the time to come engage to walk in His ways, and to fear His commandments. The Father corrects and protects us if we still stand fast in the faith both in afflictions and perplexities, that is to say, cling closely to His Christ; as it is written, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” None of these things can separate believers, nothing can tear away those who are clinging to His body and blood. ...

Let each one, acknowledging his own sins, even now put off the conversation of the old man. “For no man who looks back as he puts his hand to the plow is fit for the kingdom of God.” And, finally, Lot’s wife, who, when she was delivered looked back in defiance of the commandment, lost the benefit of her escape. Let us look not to things which are behind, where the devil calls us back, but to things which are before, where Christ calls us. Let us lift up our eyes to heaven, lest the earth with its delights and enticements deceives us. Let each one of us pray to God not for himself only, but for all the brethren, even as the Lord has taught us to pray, when He bids to each one, not private prayer, but enjoined them, when they prayed, to pray for all in common prayer and concordant supplication. If the Lord will behold us humble and peaceable; if He will see us joined one with another; if He will see us fearful concerning His anger; if corrected and amended by the present tribulation, He will maintain us safe from the disturbances of the enemy. Discipline has preceded; pardon also shall follow.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Justin Martyr on Prophecy and Evangelism in 160CE

For the prophetical gifts remain with us, even to the present time. And hence you ought to understand that [the gifts] formerly among your nation have been transferred to us. And just as there were false prophets contemporaneous with your holy prophets, so are there now many false teachers amongst us, of whom our Lord forewarned us to beware; so that in no respect are we deficient, since we know that He foreknew all that would happen to us after His resurrection from the dead and ascension to heaven.

For He said we would be put to death, and hated for His name’s sake; and that many false prophets and false Christs would appear in His name, and deceive many: and so has it come about. For many have taught godless, blasphemous, and unholy doctrines, forging them in His name; have taught, too, and even yet are teaching, those things which proceed from the unclean spirit of the devil, and which were put into their hearts.

Therefore we are most anxious that you be persuaded not to be misled by such persons, since we know that every one who can speak the truth, and yet speaks it not, shall be judged by God, as God testified by Ezekiel, when He said, “I have made you a watchman to the house of Judah. If the sinner sins, and you do not warn him, he himself shall die in his sin; but his blood will I require at you hand. But if you warn him, you will be innocent.” And on this account we are, through fear, very earnest in desiring to witness [with men] according to the Scriptures, but not from love of money, or of glory, or of pleasure. For no man can convict us of any of these [vices].

Monday, November 10, 2014

Second Clement on Obedience in 150CE

This, then is our reward if we will confess Him by whom we have been saved. But in what way will we confess Him? We confess Him by doing what He says, not transgressing His commandments, and by honoring Him not only with our lips, but with all our heart and all our mind. …

Let us, then, not only call Him Lord, for that will not save us. For He says, “Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will be saved, but he that works righteousness.” For that reason, brethren, let us confess Him by our works, loving one another. …

So let us also, while we are in this world, repent with our whole heart of the evil deeds we have done in the flesh, that we may be saved by the Lord, while we have yet an opportunity of repentance. For after we have gone out of the world, no further power of confessing or repenting will there belong to us. Wherefore, brethren, by doing the will of the Father, and keeping the flesh holy, and observing the commandments of the Lord, we shall obtain eternal life.